West End News: April 14

With ice out happening early this year, Bill and Cindy Hansen enjoy a paddle on Sawbill Lake
With ice out happening early this year, Bill and Cindy Hansen enjoy a paddle on Sawbill Lake

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The current ban on fires of any kind is not the first and not the most severe.

I don't remember the year; but very near the end of the canoeing season, because of the severe fire danger, not only the BWCAW but also access to the forest interior was closed. Even driving into the forest was prohibited.

All of a sudden things got very quiet at Sawbill Outfitters. There were no customers. There were still a few folks out in the BWCAW when the edict went into effect. As they completed their trips they rapidly became uneasy when they became aware that they were the only ones around.

We also had a few late season canoeists with reservations so they had to be contacted and called off. They were understanding but not happy.

The closing continued through the fall and into the winter. A serious proposal was made that the ban should continue into the following spring, but that did not happen.

Most outfitters dream of the day that they could take the day off without guilt and go fishing. Unfortunately we were under the same prohibitions as anyone else, so entering the Boundary Waters to fish was impossible. No fishing for us either.

Even though it was technically illegal, we did need to go to town to get the mail and do the usual errands. We were doing great, but one Sunday we went into Grand Marais to church. On the way home we got as far as the intersection of the Grade and the Sawbill Trail. Wayne Smetanka, the ever-vigilant ranger of the Tofte District at the time, was on patrol at that spot as we approached.

I am sure that he was sure that he had caught flagrant violators. He was disappointed when he saw us. Even though there was some complaining about the ban, most folks agreed that caution was the way to go, so violations just did not happen.

All went well, but it was a very tense time. Weather reports that mention lightning are still sure to make me anxious.

At this time only fires are banned. Let's hope for rain so entry is not banned as well.

Bill Hansen looked at the weather records and ice-out records at Sawbill, which now cover 54 years. The ice went out of Sawbill Lake this year one full week earlier than the next earliest ice out. There have been a couple of years when the lakes were still ice bound when fishing season opened. That is more than a month difference between then and now. That is why answering the question "When will the ice go out?" is so tough to answer.

There is still a possibility of another snowstorm. Not much of a possibility, but maybe. I hear that we have had snow every month except August in Cook County. My reaction to that is - take another look at the August records.

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